White Sox

'Strange' setting awaits as White Sox, Orioles play in empty park


'Strange' setting awaits as White Sox, Orioles play in empty park

BALTIMORE -- The White Sox and Baltimore Orioles will make major league history on Wednesday afternoon when they play in front of a closed stadium.

But at this point, that’s all White Sox players and coaches know about what to expect when they take the field at 2:05 p.m. EST with nobody else inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards aside from media, scouts and team officials.

Their three-game series halted for two days because of Monday’s citywide unrest, the White Sox and Orioles are set to play for the first time this week with one caveat -- they’ll do it front of 45,971 empty seats. The silent venue is just another twist on what has been a surreal and somewhat scary week for the White Sox, who head to Minneapolis to open a four-game series Thursday.

[MORE: Baltimore unrest puts things in perspective for White Sox]

“I don’t think anyone is prepared to play in this atmosphere or not,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s going to be strange. There’s no way around it. For us the focus is to go out and play baseball. But it’s going to be strange, for sure.”

Since word came down on Tuesday afternoon that the series would resume on Wednesday, several players have suggested the experience would be akin to spring training B games and similar minor league experiences. But those games take place on backfields at major league training facilities where a few dozen fans can sit on aluminum benches and not in one of Major League Baseball’s most pristine parks.

Though MSNBC reported early Wednesday that the Orioles plan to run their regular in-game operations, including walkup music and players announced as they hit as well as the National Anthem -- the team isn’t commenting on the process, a spokesperson said.

“I don’t think the strangeness has set in right now,” infielder Gordon Beckham said. “I’ve never played in a big league stadium that was empty. The closest I came was at the end of the season in Cleveland when there was like 1,000 people there. It’ll be interesting. We’ve talked about possibly doing some cheering without any noise just to, kind of, add to it. If somebody gets a hit, give them (a silent clap) without saying anything to kind of add to the ambiance. So we’ll see.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy an Adam Eaton jersey here]

Adam Eaton was asked about the cues crowds provide on how hard a ball has been hit or if a pitch gets past the catcher. He expects that to be an added element to the uniqueness of the affair.

“Hearing is huge for an outfielder,” Eaton said. “You hear balls in the gap, how hard it’s hit, how weakly it’s hit. You know if a ball gets by the catcher, if a guy is stealing, you can hear that all from the crowd. So it is going to be different, but we’ve done it before when we were in the minor leagues and we’ll have to bring those senses back and really pay attention.”

Without a crowd, players expect to hear broadcasters, who are situated about 180 feet behind home plate. They’ll be able to hear each other, including third-base coaches shouting instructions at players. And there will be an absence of hecklers from the stands, too.

“It will be a different feeling,” designated hitter Adam LaRoche said. “You get used to fans, whether it’s 5,000 or 50,000, you get used to that. Anytime you do something you’re not used to or something that’s a little odd it’s going to be different.”

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked


White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Omar Vizquel is named the Carolina League Manager of the Year, Sept. 13.

Vizquel became the third Winston-Salem Dash manager to be named Manager of the Year. The Dash went 84-54, the second-highest win total in franchise history and won the division title in both the first and second half.

Vizquel's season: As soon as Vizquel retired after the 2012 season, he went straight into coaching. First, he was an infield coach for the Angels in 2013. Then, he became the first base coach for the Tigers.

Vizquel remained there until taking the Dash job in the White Sox organization this season. Winston-Salem was an important post because seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 30 prospects from MLB Pipeline's rankings spent some time there in 2018.

Vizquel was able to guide that talent to a whole bunch of winning. The Dash had the best record in the Carolina League in the regular season.

The playoffs did not go so well. The Dash got swept by the eventual league champion Buies Creek Astros in the first round.

Still, it was a successful managerial debut for Vizquel and the White Sox got to take advantage of his experience with a number of top prospects playing under him.

He may not manage the White Sox any time soon, but Vizquel's ties to the organization (two years playing with the team and now coaching in the organization) make him a possible candidate at some point in his managerial career.